The time has come for a change in policing. Approximately 1,000 people are killed each year by police officers. What could be more obvious to address this problem than the need to minimize police interactions with the general public? We need to stop pulling people over on the highway, except for the most serious and immediate of issues. If the problem can wait and there is no danger of an auto accident, it should be handled without the kind of direct confrontation on a roadway that can so easily escalate into a tragedy.
The case of Daunte Wright is an illustration of what highway stops can lead to. Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was killed after he was stopped on a highway for what police say was an expired registration. His mother said her son told her on the phone that police said they pulled him over first for having an air freshener dangling from his rearview mirror.
Regardless why he was first pulled over, after running Wright's information, police say that they discovered ''he was wanted on an outstanding warrant'' related to a weapons charge and a skipped court hearing. He then tried to escape police custody in the course of being arrested, and was subsequently shot after the police officer apparently mistook her gun for her Taser.
It was totally unnecessary to pull Wright over for expired registration tags. In this regard, we could learn from England and how they handle such issues. In London, they use ubiquitous cameras to see who is driving and, with computers, to determine if they have a valid license. Those whose licenses have expired receive summonses in the mail and if necessary personal visits in their home.
Why can’t we do a similar measure with registration tags? What is the reason, in this over-wrought racial situation, to send police to stop cars and confront unlicensed drivers or, in Daunte Wright’s case, expired tags?
And is it really worth endangering the lives of police officers and citizens to ensure that they do not have air fresheners dangling from the rearview mirrors? The rationale for this ridiculous rule is that air fresheners are hazardous because they block a driver’s view. Some say they are also used to cover up the smell of marijuana.
But, this is no reason to take the obvious risk of a roadside stop. We are on the cusp of legalizing marijuana throughout the country. Is it worth the risk of confrontation that could and did escalate into a shooting to enforce a law like that?
As to the weapons charge, it too could have been enforced by less intrusive and dangerous ways than a highway stop. In New York City, we used to have a squad called the anti-crime unit that followed up on bench warrants that had been issued for failure to appear in court or for charges like these.
Wright did not deserve to die for having expired tags, an air freshener, his failure to appear in court — even for a weapons charge. Nor did the lives of innocent motorists passing by need to be endangered by the disruption caused by a police traffic stop. There were much less intrusive ways of handling these potential offenses.
Of course, sometimes it is necessary for police to interact directly with citizens — street crimes, muggings and crimes in progress come to mind.
But the vast bulk of police-citizen interactions have nothing to do with violence, like stopping somebody for an air freshener or expired registrations, and they should be minimized in the current climate.
Often times, protesters indeed have a case when it comes to holding police accountable for shootings. Over the past 15 years only 121 have been indicted and only 44 convicted, many of lesser charges.
This is not to say that juries are always partial toward police or free from undue influence. There can be no doubt that jurors in the recent George Floyd-Derek Chauvin case were intimidated by the prospect of massive rioting if they voted to acquit.
When the president of the United States says publicly, in the Oval Office, that he is, in effect, hoping for a conviction, there is scant hope for impartial justice.
That trial was as tainted as it could have been by the statements of President Joe Biden and Rep. Maxine Waters of California. With tens of thousands of troopers massed on the streets of Minneapolis what juror would have the courage to vote for acquittal knowing that it would set off rioting that might endanger his family, home or business?
Regardless, the loss of life is always tragic.
But how many of these deaths could have been avoided if there were simply a different way to find the offenders beyond police interaction?
Reducing the number of interactions between citizens and police officers is no panacea, but it is a common sense, prudent step toward reducing violence and racial tensions.
Dick Morris is a former presidential adviser and political strategist. He is a regular contributor to Newsmax TV. Read Dick Morris' Reports — More Here.
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